Funny Side Up – December 2021


Divide and Conquer: One Woman’s Quest to End Party Fouls at the Checkout Line

    I admit, my issue at checkout lines is beginning to get a bit out of control. The last two years I’ve noticed myself turning into “The Soup Nazi” (from Seinfeld) while in line, and if you’ve never been in front of me at Lucky or Safeway (pre-pandemic), just wait; your turn is coming. All I have to say is … if you don’t place a food divider stick between your food and mine, it won’t be pretty.
    Be prepared to go home with items you didn’t know you needed.
    I might be way off here, but I thought it was common courtesy to place one divider stick at the end of your groceries, while I place one at the end of mine. Like placing a period at the end of a sentence to avoid run-on sentences – or in this case, run-on groceries, right? Sorry, as a prose-generator, I tend to think in grammar.
    See, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to separate both mine and yours. STOP the madness people!
    How simple can this simple act be? Well, apparently, it’s not that simple for three out of five people who simply don’t do it, can’t do it or flat out refuse to do it. And yes, I’m counting.
    Maybe they’re running out of oomph after lifting heavy cartons of sugar flavored Tropicana Berry Punch, Svenhard’s bear claws, bags of Lay’s potato chips and a twelve-pack of Coors Lite. I’m not judging their food choices, just their food-separator practices (okay, maybe both).
    Or, maybe they’re too busy thinking about themselves to concern themselves with the person – cute, kind and adorable as she can be – behind them.
    I do understand this is not a big deal to most. No one has died, this won’t affect our local economy and it won’t trigger a nuclear war.
    And maybe this falls within post-menopausal range, but this is driving me crazy, to the point of secretly visualizing myself bopping the person on the head with the food-separator stick and yelling, “PUT YOUR STICK DOWN!”
    While I’m not a proponent of violence or inappropriate behavior (well, maybe a little inappropriate behavior), I AM an advocate of common courtesy.
    In the beginning, I would kindly but begrudgingly put the culprit’s stick down, in addition to my own – I guess getting an extra work-out. When I grew weary of this, I decided to simply place my groceries down without using the stick while leaving a good 10-inch airspace between my kale and the person’s Marlboros. Most of the time, the person in front would notice and tell the clerk where his or her groceries ended.
    When I felt this wasn’t affecting global change, but merely encouraging selfish behaviors (on their part), I decided to go a step further and place my items smack dab up to theirs so the clerk would have no idea who was buying what.
    I started getting a kick out of it, even sporting a sly smirk on my face, when I realized this had to be the beginning of a psychological problem. On my part, not theirs.
    Eventually, with my groceries smack dab up to those from the person in front of me, the clerk would start swiping my stuff. Sometimes, three items in, the customer noticed and told the clerk those items belonged to someone else.
    The clerk would have to delete my items. When this happened the other day, I waved my divider in the air and said in my best motherly voice with great authority, “That’s what the dividers are for!” I got a stink-eye in return, but that’s when my best idea EVER hit me.
    I finally resorted to launching an “oh-this-is-so-on-now” campaign I’ve dubbed “Divide and Conquer.” And I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen to you!
    I’ve decided to do my regular grocery shopping with a twist.
    I will shop for some extra items I don’t really need or want and place them between the non-divider-user’s groceries and mine. I will, however, go the extra step and place the divider down, but I will place the revenge-stick behind those extra goodies I picked up on aisles two, five and nine.
    I just wish I could be a fly on the wall to see the expression on the customer’s face when he or she gets home and unloads the groceries and finds a box of tampons, log-lighter wand, duct tape and caviar.

Charleen Earley can be reached at

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